High school students speak on leadership: 'I can make a difference'

Posted at 02/13/2009 12:57 PM | Updated as of 04/03/2009 4:51 PM

I am a leader, I can make a difference.

With this premise, 12 senior high school students delivered speeches on
true leadership in the recently held grand finals of the Voices of
Leadership Elocution Competition on Wednesday.

The public speaking contest is a corporate advocacy of Volvo Philippines
launched last November 2008. It was organized by Viking Cars Inc (VCI), the
authorized dealer of Volvo cars in the Philippines, and Scandinvian Motors
Corp. (SMC), the official importer of Volvo cars in the country.

As varied as the schools the contestants came from, each speech gave
numerous definitions: from the universally known concept of "A leader is a
servant" to endearing ones as "Ang lider ay isang salmon" to serious
notions as "Leadership is a way of life."

For Chinese-looking (but purely Filipino) John Xavier Valdez from Ateneo de
Manila High School, "Leadership is not about power or charisma. It is not
social class or distinction. It is not about job experience or education."

In his grand prize-winning piece, Valdez said that leadership is "something
that transcends age, class, social distinction, gender, even the shape of
one's eyes. Leadership is about influence, nothing more, nothing less." He
added that, "Under this definition, every man, woman, child, in this nation
of 90 million is a leader in his own right."

Regina Isabelle Jaimee Ranada of Miriam College, the first runner-up,
played with the concept of the word yes. "Yes is a response. Leaders must
be responsive. A leader should care not only for the task at hand, not only
for the members of her team, but also for herself. Second, yes signifies
acceptance…you have to accept the fact that you are not perfect. Yes, is a
positive reaction. Leaders should react positively no matter the situation
may be. She should be ready to give affirmation," Ranada explained.

As for second placer Christian Earl Castañeda of La Salle Greenhills who
brought the house down with his quirky speech, he compared a leader to a
tree. "Ang puno ay nagbibigay buhay at pag-asa sa ating lahat. Ang puno ay
nagbibigay lilim sa atin kapag tayo ay naiinitan o nauulanan. At higit pa
dun, ang puno ay nagbubunga ng masasarap na prutas, ngunit hindi para sa
kanyang sarili."

Regardless of the many metaphors, the majority of the speakers agree on one
thing: everyone can be a leader and everyone should start to create
positive and substantial change in their little ways.

"Marami kang matutulungang tao at pag-ibayuhin mo ang iyong talento. Kung
magaling kang kumanta, maaaring kanta mo ang sunod na kakantahin ng mga
Filipino ngayon. Kung magaling ka sa sports, malay mo, ikaw na ang
kauna-unahang mag-uwi ng gintong medalya sa Olympics," Castañeda said.

Being a good leader, as Ramada puts, "is about saying yes to being a role
model, which ironically enough, encompasses a lot of Nos." She adds that
"One yes inspires more Yeses."

Valdez further encourages that, "If we recognize the fact that we are all
leaders, and that we all have influence, and really use that in our daily
lives, we will bring out change. And we will become the very Messiah our
country desperately needs."

The other finalists are: Rebecca Ambil (St. Paul University Quezon City),
Anna Pizarro (St. Scholastica's College Manila), Maldova Marcos (OB
Montessori), Senando Santiago (UP Integrated School), Geraldine Felicio
(Assumption College), Miguel Roman Perez (Colegio de San Agustin), Beatrice
Sheena Tan (Saint Jude Catholic School), Joseph Chan (Xavier School), and
Marinella Belen (De La Salle Santiago Zobel).

Only the first

"It's the first and it's an advocacy that we'd like to continue," Albert
Arcilla, VCI president and chief executive officer, said after the event.
According to him, the results of the first batch were positive and
inspiring.

"We were very surprised, these students are very much in tune with reality.
They want to share their thoughts and their ideas. I think this is one
forum that will correct a lot of misimpressions about the youth," Arcilla
told  abs-cbnnews.com.

The mechanics of the competition are quite simple. After receiving an
invitation, interested schools are will choose three representatives and
send these students to a two-day leadership seminar. During the seminar,
students are trained in different skills that enhance leadership and
responsibility among the students. They are also guided in the art of
public speaking and writing their pieces for the competition.

"We trained them in skills that we think are important for their own
personal growth and their contribution to society. When they came back to
their respective schools, they have their own respective competitions,"
Arcilla explained.

The winners in the internal school competitions will become the official
school representative in the grand finals, that way, every participating
school is represented.

Speeches should "best articulate the concept of "true leadership" inspired
by integrity of heart and excellent skills, God-centeredness, and
accountable and responsible stewardship," according to Arcilla.

The grand prize winner received P50,000 and a Voice of Leadership plaque.
The first and second runner-up each received a Voice of Leadership plaque
and P40,000 and P30,000, respectively. The winners' home schools also
received the same amount to support a school program to propagate the true
character of leadership among the faculty and staff. But the remaining
finalists didn't go home empty handed. Each received a Voice of Leadership
medal and P10,000 while their schools received P20,000.